#52AncestorsIn52Weeks – Oldest

Top Row: Left to right – Elzie Chenoweth (grandfather), Dollie Swise Chenoweth (great-grandmother), Eleanor Senate Lawrence Harrison (2nd great grandmother)

Bottom Row: Left to right – Elias Birdine Chenoweth (2nd great grandfather), Della Margaret White Swise (2nd great grandmother)

Back in college, I took a class about families.  It seemed like a blow-off class with little information of importance.  Boy, was I wrong!  We studied birth-order of children.  It was fascinating and I still relate to what I learned there.  With the topic of oldest this week, I went way back to this class and comments my sister often makes.  “I didn’t have to remember that family trivia, you’re the oldest.  You always remember for me,” is a comment she frequently makes.  The other has something to do with the fact if something is not functioning at home, I quickly try to fix it myself which once led to me taking the one toilet out of our house to repair it.

Oldest children to have a tendency to do things differently.  Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist, was one of the first to develop this theory.  Supposedly the first-born child is the high achiever, the middle-born child the peacemaker and the youngest child is the outgoing charmer. It’s difficult to tell if that’s accurate.  Science sure can’t do it, but here is what I do know.

As a first-born or oldest child, I was my parents’ experiment.  They developed their parenting skills on me as do most parents.  By the time the next child comes along, they have skipped the books, discussion groups, forums, and advice giving columns.  The oldest child is the one who was an only child for a while.  They are the child who had the adults’ single focus.  In the beginning, they didn’t have to share the adult attention. It does make a difference.

After considering the topic for the week, I began thinking that most of my direct ancestors are not first-born children.  The first four – Elzie through Elias – were all first-born children as am I.  FIVE first-borns out of 31 possibilities – (16 – 2nd great grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 4 grandparents, 2 parents and me).  In fact, most of my ancestors were youngest or near the youngest 1/3 of their family.  Families were much bigger in the old days, so if you fell in the bottom 1/3 of 9 children, you might as well have been the youngest.

It did make me consider what kind of effect it had on my ancestors, their choice of spouses, their occupations, the way they interacted with their siblings.  Just some deep thinking for a rainy Sunday.

The last young lady in the group of photos is Della Margaret White Swise.  She was #5 of 5 in 1862.  As her mother came west to Illinois, leaving Virginia and the Civil War and Della’s father in the Army, the four oldest children and their mother contracted diphtheria in Ohio.  Family history says they were nursed by an Indian woman.  The other four children died.  Only Della – being under the age of two – and her mother survived.  She went from being the youngest in the family to being the oldest.

The story of Della and her family ends happily.  Their father, apparently after his term of service in the Army, went west to find the family in Illinois.  He must have been very happy to see his wife, Eliza Jane Hulvey White and Della.  You see, Della went from being the youngest of five children, to the oldest of 10!  How’s that for a switch from youngest to oldest!

52 Ancestors Challenge – Commencement

COMMENCEMENT – the act or instance of commencing; beginning.

Eliza Jane Hulvey (b:5 April 1832  d:25 March 1885) was the 13th and last child born to Philip and Amelia (Walters) Hulvey of Augusta County, Virginia.  She is my 3rd great grandmother and she is wrapped up in beginnings and endings.  She ultimately had to face a commencement any woman who is a mother knows would be the last scenario you could withstand.  Indulge me while I tell her somewhat complicated story.

John Sheets WhiteA marriage license was issued on 24 August 1854 for Eliza Jane Hulvey and John Sheets White.  Eliza and John were both 22 years old at the time.  However, their first child is listed with a birthdate in 1853.  Did they not apply for the actual license till much after the ceremony was performed? That question is yet to be answered.

John Sheets White

Their children were Mary Agnes White (b. 1853), an infant that died at birth in 1855, John Newton Ellisander White (b. 1856), James William White (b. 1857), Pricilla Emma White (b 1858) and Della Margaret White (b. 1860).  Della was my 2nd great grandmother.

According to the book Hulvey Clan Historical Ties by Velma June Good Hulvey, (p. 301) “They left Virginia and lived for a short time in Ohio.”  But family documents show John Sheets White listed as a Prisoner of War on September 27, 1862 after the Battle of Antietam during the US Civil War. The Battle of Antietam was held September 17, 1862.

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

Oath of Allegiance Eliza Jane Hulvey White

However, family records also show Eliza and the five oldest children were in Ohio during this same time period when they contracted diptheria.  Legend has it an Indian woman nursed the family during their awful illness. Unfortunately, the four oldest children — Mary Agnes, John Newton Ellisander, James William and Pricilla Emma — all died from diptheria between the 2nd and 9th of September 1862. Only Della Margaret, the youngest and Eliza, her mother survived.  Eliza went from having a family of five children and a husband, to a woman who was unsure where her husband was during the war and a mother who had lost four children.

Records don’t help to bring this story into focus, though.  We only know that on 25th September of 1863, Eliza and two small children were given an Army pass to travel to Winchester, Virginia.  Della would have been one of the children.  The next child born was Elly Walters White (b. 1861 d. 1865).  If Elly was born in 1861, why was he not with Eliza and the other children when they contracted diptheria?

The next record shows a pass in October of 1863 at Martinsburg, VA for Miss L. White on B & R Railroad good for one day only.  An Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America accompanies the pass she received.  The Oath describes her as “Age: 29, Height: 5 ft. 3, Complexion: dark, Eyes:blue, Hair:brown”.

Not long after this John and Eliza must have been reunited as Robert Franklin White was born in August of 1864. By 1877, five more daughters and one son were born to John and Eliza.  Their family moved to Illinois where they would someday be buried.

The gaps in the records are still to be filled, but we know Eliza ultimately gave birth to 14 children in 23 years.  The first four children died of diptheria.  Della, the youngest at the time, survived to become the oldest of the remaining eight children who reached adulthood.  The end of the Civil War was the beginning of a new life for Eliza and John where their family would set down roots and continue to grow.  The commencement of a new life for her was not without its pain.