52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – EASY

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

Signed checks by Elzie Chenoweth, Wm. Chenoweth, Elias Chenoweth and Dollie Chenoweth

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Family history books of Salmans, France, Hulvey, and German families of Quincy, IL

Levi Franklin Salmans family

Levi Franklin Salmans family

They made it easy.  Really.  Whether it was asking questions to discover family members or tracing the genealogy of the family, they – my ancestors – made it easy.  They left records, notes, stories.  My Grandma Chenoweth had meticulously handwritten the names of her family on the back of photos.  She kept a diary also.   My Grandma Yess has handwritten the family genealogy. It was important we knew the stories of the family and knew where we came from. She wanted us to know how important it was we were related to the prolific Harrison family of Peoria county.  She wanted us to know even though her maiden name was Smith, it really should have been Schmitt.  Her grandparents had immigrated from Germany.

My parents are the current archivists of many of the family heirlooms.  This includes the old deeds, checks and pictures of the family.  It’s a true joy to rifle through the old family bible with records handwritten in German, read the letters written to my grandparents by a World War II soldier who used to work for them, and to gaze at the faces of family members.  Is it just me or do you see the same faces repeated over and over within a family?

One year for Christmas my parents gave my sister, my two cousins and I each a cancelled check from my grandfather, great grandfather and great grandmother and 2nd great grandfather.   I took those, along with photos of each of those individuals and a couple of the funeral cards from those family members and had them framed.  It’s interesting to see who the checks were written to and to compare the nearly identical signatures on the checks.

Many of the family photos have information typed or written on them much like the Levi Franklin Salmans photo above.  What a tool this is!  I can easily take this photo and compare it to the other loose photos within the box and separate out the different siblings and their children based on this photo.

The family stories are priceless.  Someone took time out of their busy day to reflect on what would be important to the family in the future.  They didn’t sugar coat the story, but told the reality of what life was like and the challenges they faced.  Those  pithy stories are what inspire us to persevere.

I’ve begun collecting recipes handwritten by my Mom, aunt, grandmothers and other family members . Recipes tell a surprising amount of information.  There’s Ethel’s Salad written in my Grandma Yess’ handwriting.  I’m not sure who Ethel was, but apparently Grandma liked her salad.  Other recipe cards refer to Aunt So & So’s German Chocolate Cake, or Cousin So & So’s bread and butter pickles. You can tell which recipes were the favorites by the stains on the card.

It may not seem very important to you today, but imagine how interesting it was for me to read my Grandma Vera Chenoweth’s diary and find out she had her FIRST decorated birthday cake at the age of 52!  I hadn’t ever considered the idea of how unique a decorated cake would  have seemed to her.  It gave me a perspective to think at age 54 how often I had a decorated cake for an occasion.

It was very easy to begin my journey to family genealogy thanks to those ancestors.  I vow to make it easy for my ancestors to find it easy also.  Hopefully this blog can be saved in perpetuity and someday my great great granddaughter can laugh at the picture of me in my high school basketball uniform.  My future grandson or granddaughter can grow to appreciate the stories of their ancestors as much as I have.

WRITE IT DOWN, please!  Write about your daily life. Write about your first experience at school, your first love, your first job, your biggest triumph or disappointment in life.  Share the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.  The more honest you are when writing, the more people understand what a complex creature you are and a treasure.

EASY

E – Elaborate – tell as much as you can

A – Acknowledge – share who was important to you.  First teacher who left an impact, a coach who pushed you, or a friend who stood by your side should be acknowledge.

S – Spell it out!  Write so that the person reading can piece together the relationships of those you are referring to.

Y – YOU – only YOU can leave this legacy. No one else can tell the story like you can.  Write when the notion hits you or do it every day.  Either will work, but just make sure to write and reflect.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – CHALLENGING

This week’s topic is “Challenging” and it is challenging, so to speak.  I have certain ancestors I don’t know much about and haven’t had much luck in the research of them.  I haven’t delved deep enough, so to speak, into their past.  I’m certain there are most likely documents to help me should I be patient enough to take the time to research further.

Mariah Sherman Clanin was my 3rd great grandmother.  She was born in Ohio in 1813 to Thomas R. Sherman (1792-1847) and Lavinia Barr (1791-1817).  I have always been a great lover of history and especially the American Civil War.  Obviously, my mind first went to the fact General William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Ohio in 1820 and I’ve wondered ever since if we weren’t somehow related.  I’m still wondering and searching.  Mariah married Edwad Clanin while living in Ohio and they later moved to Fulton County, Illinois.

William Tecumseh Sherman was born in February of 1820 in Ohio to the Hon. Charles Robert Sherman (1788-1829) and Mary Hoyt (1787-1852).  “Cump” Sherman as he was affectionately known to family members had several siblings: Hon. Charles T. Sherman, Mary Elizabeth Reese, James Sherman, Amelia McComb, Julia Ann Willock, Lampson Parker Sherman, John “The Ohio Icicle” Sherman – U.S. Senator and U. S. Secretary of Treasury & State, Susan Denman Sherman, Hoyt Sherman and Frances Beecher Moulton.

My great grandmother also had many siblings and half-siblings: John C. Sherman, Sarah Sherman, Lavinia Sherman, Margaret N. Sherman, Amanda Sherman, Andrew Sherman, Nancy Sherman, and James Sherman.  None seem to match up with any of “Cump” Sherman’s.

Several of the given names are similar between families, but they also are not that unique to be a factor in connecting the two families.

Edw and Mariah Sherman Clanin

Edw and Mariah Sherman Clanin

Mariah died in 1890, four years prior to Edward’s death.  She was 77 years old at her death.  I believe this photo was probably taken not too long prior to 1890.  She seems to be holding spectacles in her right hand.  Edward is holding some sort of paper.  It is known that he served in the Army during some war with Indians as a family member has a buffalo coat he gained during that war.  Perhaps he had difficulties with his hands due to age.

Mariah is pretty challenging.  I intend to keep working on her to match her up, hopefully, with William Tecumseh Sherman, but if I don’t find a connection, it certainly won’t change my interest in General Sherman.  Who knows…if I got back far enough, I might find the connection!

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – MUSICAL

Standing in the Country Music Hall of Fame last weekend, I thought about how important music has been in my life.  It genuinely brings me joy and changes my attitude.  It doesn’t matter what kind of music I listen to, it all works magic.  I played the saxophone in high school and was pretty good by first chair standards, but Boots Randolph I was not.  I once told my sister if I could have any skill/superpower, it would be to sing beautifully.  Right now my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of ability.  That seems to be the theme of my family.  Let me take you through a magical journey of my family and music.

Elzie Chenoweth's fiddle

Elzie Chenoweth’s fiddle

Elzie Chenoweth

Elzie Chenoweth

This fiddle belonged to my grandfather, Elzie Chenoweth (1897-1986).  It has been hanging on the wall in my Dad and Mom’s house since 1970. It hasn’t been used at all.  No one in the family knows how to play a fiddle, but I remember Grandma Vera saying the Swise family (Grandpa Elzie’s mother was Dollie Swise Chenoweth) was a very musically talented family.  she said everyone in the Swise family could play an instrument.  Charles Henry “Tuck/Tucker” Swise was very good on a fiddle and he often played for neighborhood dances.

"Tuck" Swise Family

“Tuck” Swise Family

Grandpa Elzie had convinced himself he had inherited the genes for music talent also. Somehow he got this fiddle.  I don’t know if he taught himself to play or if someone else helped him, but Dad says he remembers Grandpa “sawing” on the fiddle.  He also remembers Grandpa Elzie wasn’t very good at it.

Grandpa Elzie Chenoweth's jew's harp

Grandpa Elzie Chenoweth’s jew’s harp

Grandpa Elzie did have SOME musical talent!  He often played this jew’s harp.  This instrument is also known as a juice harp or mouth harp.  I recall evenings staying at Grandpa and Grandma’s when he would pull it out to play.  He tried to teach us, but we weren’t very good.

Dad said he tried to play it when he was a youngster.  Even though he had been warned, he got his tongue stuck in the harp and quickly decided it wasn’t for him.    For a fascinating read on the history of this musical instrument, click here.

My Dad never played an instrument.  When we took band lessons he used to say, “I’m pretty good at playing the radio!”.  His mother, my Grandma Vera Chenoweth, played the piano, but I don’t really remember hearing her play.

John Yess (1896-1985)

John Yess (1896-1985)

Grandpa John Yess' violin

Grandpa John Yess’ violin

My mother’s father – my Grandpa John Yess, (1896-1985) owned the violin on the right.  Apparently playing fiddle or violin must have been the thing to do with young men in the late 1910’s and 1920’s since both my grandfathers owned one.  You can see Grandpa John’s violin wasn’t very worn leaving me to believe he used it very sparingly or not at all.  It had a set of lessons to go with the instrument and it’s in the original box from the company he ordered it from.  The violin is marked “Stradivarius”.  Unfortunately upon research we have learned this was a very inexpensive version sold through mail order!

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Mom was a clarinet player in the band at Princeville High School.  She is an avid music lover and encouraged my sister and I to learn to play an instrument.  We both chose saxophone – plus is saved on purchasing more than one instrument!

Both Mom and Dad encouraged us to enjoy all kinds of music and entertainment.  Every summer my parents bought season tickets to the local university’s summer music theatre.  After each performance we’d discuss the characters, our favorite songs and try to recall the lyrics.  To this day I can sing the lyrics to many, many Broadway showtunes!

I admire those who can play an instrument.  I admire even more those who have mastered an instrument(s) including their voice.  I LOVE live music whether it be country, bluegrass, jazz, pop, blues, or just a good ole Sousa march!  Both of our children played in the band for a short time in school as did my cousins children and niece and nephew.

Today, we continue to have a great love for music, but the focus has changed more toward attending concerts.  One of my nieces has created quite a list of entertainers she has already seen in concert.

We may not be musically talented, but we still have a great appreciation for music.

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – ROAD TRIP

“Which ancestor do you want to take a road trip to go research?”

The question posed by this week’s theme took little time to answer. My husband’s family is 100% German and a good portion of mine is either German or English.  I’ve always wanted to travel to Germany and England and see where my family came from.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  I have taken the first step.

Map of Germany with tags for families

Map of Germany with tags for families

A very large map of modern Germany (4 1/2 ft x 3 1/2 ft) hangs on the wall in my office. I decided to begin marking where all our family’s ancestors were from.  There is something about seeing on a map the villages your family came from. You relate to it better.  You consider what is near that town: rivers, boundaries, other villages, mountains, plains, forests.  You begin to understand the culture of the place better when you see it on the map.   The picture above shows the home of four of my husband’s ancestral families.  They lived fairly close.  When I began to put into context where they lived, I realized how close they were to Arnhem and Nijmegan – both important World War II battle areas.  Our branch of the family had immigrated to the United States 100 years before World War II, but another branch remained in Germany.

The family lines posted above are the Terstriep family from Ahaus, Germany; Bernard Venvertloh from Eschlohn, Germany; Anna Maria Boeving, his wife, from Südlohn, Germany, and Henry Düisdecker from Munster, Germany.  All are ancestors of my husband and all had family members move to Quincy, Illinois in the mid 1800s.

Ancestral villages in Germany

Ancestral villages in Germany

This photo reflects more of my mother’s family.  The Bootz family is my 2nd great grandmother’s family who lived near Darmstadt and Bingen, Germany.  My father and mother-in-law’s families were from near Hanover, Germany.

I have tried to add to the map as I complete more research.  I can better see patterns of migration and how families interconnected.  I hope to add a map of England also.  My father’s family is from St. Martin, Cornwall, England.  Interestingly enough a recent PBS Masterpiece show, Poldark, is set in Cornwall and I have loved seeing the scenery of this part of England.  Our family actually came to the Colonies in the late 1680’s – preceding the Poldark story by a cool century!

So my wish is to travel to Germany and England and walk the land my ancestors walked.  I want to visit the Catholic church in Ahaus where my husband’s family were married, baptized and buried for over 300 years.  I want to see parts of Yorkshire where my Harrison side of the family came from.  Obviously I have no problem with English.  It’s my native language.  German is quite another thing.  I know only enough German to tell someone I don’t speak German!  To rectify this situation, I take the first step in my road trip by taking a beginning German class this fall.  Who knows. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take that road trip, study my family and speak German well enough to learn something new. It’s a first step on a hopeful road trip.

Happy 5th of July

Today I deter from my usual 52 Ancestors blog to talk about those brave ancestors of ours.  We really should be celebrating the Fifth of July and in this July 4, 2008 post, I’ll tell you why:

Happy 5th of July…that’s right!

I originally wrote this blog in July of 2008 and believe the message even more today.  Let’s thank our veterans for letting us celebrate this wonderful holiday and to our family and friends.   


As our country ponders what we will do to right the ship, we need to remember it is OUR country – we did not give the power to someone else.  Thus WE must be the change we want to see to paraphrase Ghandi.  


Happy 5th of July!




What? Happy 5th of July? Don’t you mean 4th of July? Nope…5th. Here’s my thought process.

On July 4th, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress . Actually on July 2nd, the Congress had already voted to declare independence from Great Britian. It was later published and signed near the beginning of August. 

So, why Happy 5th? 

On the Fourth, we actually made a statement as a country saying, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.” We listed the reasons why, what we believed to be the ideal nation, etc, but on the morning of the 5th, can’t you imagine those of the Continental Congress waking up to wonder, “What did we just do?” They had pledged EVERYTHING they had to see this through! 

It’s a whole lot easier to say, “I’m not gonna take this anymore and I’m changing something”, than it is to actually do it. Once you’ve made that public statement you have to begin to formulate how the action will take place; how you will change what you believe to be substandard. How many of us have said, I’m gonna lose weight, or I’m gonna finish school to wake up this next morning thinking, ahhh…maybe tomorrow. 

Well, these people had no choice. They had made a rather bold statement of independence and now they were known for it. People would be judging them on how they had achieved that goal or fallen short. They would judge them if they individually profited from the situation.

So, I believe it much harder to actually put the statement into action and today was the day of action for our country. We could no longer talk about doing something, we had to move, take action, change the world. And…overall, I believe it worked out very well.

But…I imagine for a little bit on the morning of the 5th of July, 1776 there were some men who wondered What the heck did we do yesterday? And today, July 5th, 2008 there will be more men wondering the same thing, but for different reasons! Happy 5th!

52 ANCESTORS CHALLENGE – INDEPENDENT

Emma Jane Harrison and George Edward Smith

Emma Jane Harrison Smith

As July 4th nears, I began thinking about the word “independent” and what definition I would use in this blog.  Obviously the Fourth reminds one of the independence of the American spirit as we became a new nation, but independent can also categorize people.  An individual can be less dependent on others.  They can carry an independent spirit or they can struggle to keep their independence as they age.  All these definitions can be used here.

Amelia (Emma) Jane Harrison was born March 21, 1868 to Robert William Harrison and Eleanor Senate Lawrence.  She married George Smith, who was five years her elder, in 1888 and during the next 23 years she gave birth to six children.  Her third child, Jessie Eleanor, was my grandmother making Emma Jane Smith my great grandmother.

Jessie Eleanor Smith Yess

Jessie Eleanor Smith Yess

Grandma Jessie always talked about her mother as a hard worker and the industrious type.  One could imagine how busy Emma Jane was running a household with six children.  Grandma’s father, Great Grandpa George Smith had a tendency for heading to town with her egg money at times to visit the tavern.  Keeping their head above water probably also made Emma Jane an independent woman.

Emma Jane’s father, Robert, died when she was only 22. She had given birth just a few months before to their first child, Blanche.  Emma’s mother, Eleanor Harrison, died when Emma was 54; her husband, George, died when she was 63 in 1931.  Emma lived until the ripe age of 85 and died November 20, 1953.  During her later years, she sometimes lived with my grandparents (John and Jessie Smith Yess).  She was used to doing something of worth every day and when her health and eyesight were no longer what they had been, she still felt the need to contribute to the daily housework at Jessie and John’s house.  Grandma Jessie would take newly-cut out tea towels and have her mother hem them each day.

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Sharon Yess Chenoweth

My mother, Sharon Yess, recalls watching her grandmother, Emma Jane, carefully hem the tea towels each day.  She also remembered watching her mother, at night after Emma had gone to bed, unhem the tea towels. The unhemmed towels were put back in a stack for stitching the following day.  In this way, Grandma Emma contributed to the housework in her mind and still felt some independence or worth.

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

Sharon Yess Chenoweth

I come from a long line of independent women.  I’m pretty sure our family motto was “Do It Yourself Because No One Else Will Do It”.  DIY is what we’re all about. I believe independent spirit can be handed down or bequeathed through DNA and I believe I have a double dose of independent spirit from both sides of my family.

Julie Chenoweth Terstriep

Julie Chenoweth Terstriep

.  Obviously our facial characteristics can be inherited too. As I loaded pictures of myself, my mom, my grandmother and my great grandmother, I was struck by the fact we all look quite a bit alike.  That must be what “Independent Spirit” looks like.